Passport Canada is facing the wrath of the internet after posting a tweet that appeared to promote vacations despite Canada’s plea to avoid all non-essential travel.
A tweet posted on Passport Canada’s Twitter account last Friday (Nov. 13) urged Canadians to apply for a passport to prepare for the upcoming winter season.
“Are you planning a winter vacation but don’t have a valid passport? Don’t wait, apply now!” read the tweet.
The tweet has since been deleted, but it certainly raised eyebrows as Twitter users were quick to drag the federal office through the digital mud.
The Government of Canada’s website says it has implemented “strict travel restrictions” and that Canadians “may have difficulty returning to Canada” if they choose to travel abroad.
With this in mind, one Twitter user called the tweet “slightly tone deaf.”
“Majority of folks are unable to visit their family relatives who reside in different provinces yet people can travel overseas for winter vacation? I thought currently non-essential/leisure travel [was] restricted in [Canada]?” wrote a user that goes by @trueintegrity87.
While Canada’s non-essential travel advisory has remained unchanged for several months, Canadians can technically still travel for leisure purposes, if they want to, just as long as wherever they are going is accepting tourists.
But all travellers returning to Canada, by law, must quarantine for 14 days, which is a major barrier for many.
It is unclear if Passport Canada’s tweet was scheduled last year, before the pandemic hit, or if the department’s social media manager simply forgot to connect the dots.
Government treading lightly
This incident aside, the Canadian government has been very careful in terms of how it talks about travel as COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the country.
When Alberta launched its rapid testing pilot project, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, on Oct. 23, treaded lightly when pressed by reporters on the initiative.
While Trudeau said he was "interested in seeing the results" of the project, which aims to reduce quarantine times from 14 days to 48 hours, he implied that the study was designed for “business travellers,” dodging any suggestion that holidaymakers might use it too.
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, has shared positive news about air travel, but has generally stuck to science and facts without actually encouraging people to fly.
The doctor has reiterated how the Government of Canada does not have many records of COVID-19 actually spreading between passengers on airplanes.
"There have been very few reports, extremely rare reports, actually, of transmission aboard aircraft," said Dr. Tam at press conference on Nov. 11. "Very, very little."
On the suggestion of renewing passports for winter vacations, Twitter user @thoughtsofaphd replied: “Not unless I need a passport to go from my kitchen to the living room.”
The ripple effect of Passport Canada’s Twitter faux pas has even begun to catch the attention of news outlets in the United States.
This week Fox News pointed out how the Canadian government office was “roasted” after encouraging passport renewals for winter vacations.
New policy for returning home
Canadian travellers that do plan to take an out-of-country holiday this winter must now report their symptoms via the ArriveCAN app before returning home.
The mandatory requirement, which begins Nov. 21, requests a digital submission of travel and contact information, a quarantine plan (unless exempted under conditions set out in the mandatory isolation order), and COVID-19 symptom self-assessments.
All travellers entering Canada must submit this information before they board their flight and be ready to show an ArriveCAN receipt when seeking entry into Canada.
Failure to comply can lead to additional delays at the border for public health questioning and enforcement action, which can range from verbal warnings to $1,000 fines, states the Government of Canada’s website.
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